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No 237 - June 17, 2010

I’m all in favour of celebrations.
To be honest, to me, every day is a celebration
– life is a celebration to be enjoyed to the full.

But some days are more of a celebration than others: a birthday, a wedding day, and the anniversaries that follow, the birth of a baby, a promotion, a big win, and especially a National achievement.
On many of these days enjoying a cigar is very appropriate.
The old cry of “give that man a cigar” is a wonderful cry – but which cigar?

Well if you have taken advantage of our Selections in the past, you will have had the opportunity to try a wide variety of cigars from different islands and countries, and of different sizes – which will help you make a more informed choice.
To explain the purpose of our selections, I offer an extract from our article No.214 dated 16 April 2009:

When I started these “Selections” many years ago, my thinking was to make it easy for cigar smokers to try a bigger variety of brands and sizes at affordable prices and in manageable quantities.
Because when you want to experiment it is helpful to have some idea of what you’re doing!

Our selections mix up brands in the same sizes or different sizes in the same brand; they traverse the whole gamut of premium cigars: Cuban, Honduran, Nicaraguan, long or short filler. They introduce new brands, new sizes and Limited Editions. On occasion we create a “Blind Tasting Selection” by covering the bands. (Of course you can simply uncover the bands – and enjoy the cigars without the mystery.)
Enclosed in each Selection is an informative leaflet which may include ratings from Cigar Aficionado or the late Theo Rudman, and you can download a Tasting Score Sheet to help you make your assessment.
Two or three friends together each with the same selection, discussing the cigars and comparing notes, can have a lot of fun and increase their appreciation and enjoyment of cigars.

Our selections are a great starting point from which to build and improve your humidor stock, and a great opportunity to break from your normal choice. You can try new cigars without being afraid of expensive errors. All in all our cigar selections are always well worth looking at – very seldom does a browser leave without finding a selection to try, confident he’ll enjoy the experiment.

Now you can try one of life’s great luxuries – without costly mistakes!
Judge for yourself how a Dominican cigar with African Cameroon wrapper stands up to the most popular Cuban Robusto.
Compare a budget Cuban cigar with a fully handmade cigar – is it worth smoking? (It is!)
We’ve all heard of the Vuelta Abajo region of Cuba, but have you tasted a cigar from the Vuelta Arriba, where cigar leaf has been grown since the 16th Century?
Click here to read about the Selections available at present.

Unfortunately we are not permitted to post these cigar selections to distant customers in South Africa – so visit your nearest Wesley’s. There is still time to buy them for Father’s Day (June 20) – or for the next celebration day.

To all Fathers and Grandfathers and honorary Fathers – Happy Fathers Day on June 20 – celebrate your blessings!

Colin Wesley
No 238 June 17 to 30, 2010

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No 238 - July 1, 2010
Go Mzansi**

The soccer World Cup has certainly woken our country up to what we can achieve if we all try and put our acts together.
Hosting the World Cup is no mean achievement especially in the time frame we were given – 4 years is considered very tight for the task.

The excitement is here, and the patriotism of all the participants and their supporters has been very obvious, thanks to the media, both printed and visual. And there is more to come as the dramas of the final rounds unfold.           
**Slang for “The South” as in “Southern Africa”, used as “we are behind South Africa” (so I’m told!) 

The sound of the Vuvuzela has fast become the clarion call of South Africa, and this set me thinking – what about the trumpet-shaped Calabash pipe. While there might be doubt about the origin and the history of the Vuvuzela, there is no doubt about the history and origin of the Calabash pipe – it is truly South African.

The Calabash pipe as we know it originated in the early years of the Anglo-Boer War when the crude version used by the Hottentots was transformed in Cape Town by a small UK factory (Blatter & Co) wanting to make and supply pipes to the English soldiers in South Africa - they had used up all the briar they had brought from England. (It’s amazing how many pipes were smoked by the British troops.)
The Calabash pipes were well-accepted, and after the War exports to the UK began. By 1912, 250000-300000 were being exported annually (and this was not enough to satisfy the demand).
Over the next decades the Calabash developed from a simple, basic pipe to incorporate the use of high quality meerschaum bowls, amber mouthpieces, silver filigree, and handmade fitted cases; but it was the excellent natural smoking qualities that kept smokers looking for them.

The calabash is part of the botanical genus “lagenaria” which includes more than 750 species (of which the pumpkin is one). It was probably introduced into Africa by the Egyptians and has long been prized for its durability, light weight, and water-tightness – qualities which offer a multitude of uses: milk/water/wine containers, ladles, grain measures, resonators for musical instruments, and more.
The fascinating history of the calabash pipe is wonderfully documented in Gary B Schrier’s “The History of the Calabash Pipe” – 2nd Edition in preparation.

We are now back to the basic Calabash pipe, grown and produced in South Africa – with the same characteristics of durability and lightness and with a “clay” lining for cool, dry, carbonless smoking.
And those are the practical reasons your pipe collection should include a calabash:
• The “clay” bowl is actually quick-setting gypsum (calcium sulphate semihydrate) plaster – known as Plaster of Paris. It is neutral, needs no carbon build-up – you can taste the true flavour of your tobacco.
• The air space below the “clay” bowl cools and dries the smoke – just what every pipe smoker wants from a pipe – “a cool, dry smoke”. Remember to allow the pipe to dry out between smokes.
• The juices collecting beneath the bowl are gradually absorbed into the calabash shell, which then colours from the original tan to a rich brown, like fine leather.

Our supplier, the only producer of Calabash pipes in South Africa, does not have an easy job. The weather, the insects, all take their toll (read more). But the season has been good, and he has just sent us the best selection we have had for many years.
To commemorate our Soccer World Cup, we offer, for a limited period, these truly South African pipes at less 25%. To rest your calabash pipe between smokes, a leather “beanbag” is the answer - also South African leather (and hands). We’ll offer 25% off these too.

For the period 8-21 July 2010
Calabash pipes less 25% and / or Leather Beanbag Pipe Rests less 25%

If you don’t have a Calabash pipe in your collection, this is the time to add one; to join the thousands of pipesmokers worldwide who have found great pleasure in enjoying the smoking qualities of their Calabash pipes – the unique South African pipe.

Colin Wesley
No.238 July 1 - 14, 2010

Website customers – you’d like a choice? We’ll photograph several for you to choose from.

Because we always guarantee our products – anything that isn’t completely to your satisfaction can be returned (in original condition and packaging) for a full refund.

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No 239 - July 14, 2010
South Africa’s Unique Cigar

Or rather the Cuban cigar made uniquely for South Africa – “Exclusivo Sudafrica” as it says on the second red and silver label .

Recently I wrote about the Calabash pipe, which is unique to South Africa and highly sought after by pipe smokers worldwide. Now we have the South Africa Regional Edition Cuban Punch Petit Piramides 2010 -  produced exclusively for distribution in South Africa.
A very neat 127mm x Ring 50, it is packed in boxes of 25 (R4491.50), and also available from Wesley’s shops in glass-tubed singles (R213.00), and sleeves of three cigars in glass tubes (R625.00).

This series is part of the regional distribution programme which Habanos started in 2005 with 5 Edición Regional. These are special limited-production cigars made for specific regional markets, underwritten by the distributor in the particular market, and available for 1 to 2 years. The shapes (vitola) are ones that are normally made in Cuba, but not in the specific brand. At the end of the limited period, the shape might be added to the brand’s normal range of shapes.
There were 23 releases in 2009, and 11 so far this year.

Habanos.com has this to say about the Punch brand:
Punch is one of the very oldest Habano brands. Don Manuel Lopez of Juan Valle & Co founded it in the mid 19th Century with an eye to the booming British market where a humorous magazine of the same name was much in vogue. A contented Mr Punch, the clown who personified the magazine, is still featured in every box, cigar in hand, and surrounded by 19th Century images of cigar making that remain virtually unchanged over a century and a half later. In 1925 the Punch moved to the factory where Hoyo de Monterrey was made and this long association continues to the present day.
Punch’s distinct medium flavour created with a blend of tobaccos from the Vuelta Abajo region is available in a wide variety of sizes "totalmente a mano, tripa larga" - totally hand made, long filler.

I’ve not been able to find any rating information or comments on this cigar. From the really useful “Trevor’s Cuban Cigar Website” I confirmed that only 1000 numbered boxes have been made.
The cigars look, feel and smell wonderful (a good start). I look forward to smoking one when I have shaken off an irritating little cold. The remaining two sections on our Cigar Score Sheet cover taste and construction – download the Score Sheet here, and use it when you try the cigar.

We will appreciate feedback from the South African floor. 

Now what will I use to light the cigar?

Way back in 2001 I wrote the first article on “Lighting Up” and brought it up-to-date in 2008. You’ll see that I was never a big fan of the Turbo lighter, although it does have its place. I find that the narrow, intense flame too often causes a hole in the foot or chars it badly when you try to light the whole surface, resulting in a burnt taste – ugh!
Silver match Triple Jet Turbo LighterBecause the most recent addition to the Silver Match Turbo range has 3 turbo jets (and a convenient built-in cigar punch) I am much happier with this turbo system. The three jets obviously offer a much broader flame – easier to control and to spread over the whole foot of the cigar, lighting it without charring.
You still need to be careful – hold the foot of the cigar well away from the jets. Rotate the cigar with the foot at an angle until it ignites spontaneously and starts to glow. Occasionally blow gently on the foot to see if it is evenly lit, or where some attention is needed.
The Silver Match Triple Jet Turbo is the lighter we will have on special this fortnight.

The Silver Match Triple Jet Turbo lighter with built-in Cigar Punch
R295.00only from 22 July to 4 August, 2010
Normal price R347.95 

Correct lighting really adds to your enjoyment of a cigar.

Colin Wesley
No.239 July 14 to August 4, 2010

PS Turbo mechanisms require extra-purified gas. Dunhill gas is highly refined, pure, turbo-compatible butane gas. This ensures that valves are less likely to clog and malfunction, and the anti-corrosive properties protect all metal parts, thus considerably extending the life of all lighters.

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No 240 - July 29, 2010
The Short Smoke

Last week one of my regular Savinelli Pipe smokers came in with his extra large Dry System 1616, and he wasn’t looking happy - not his usual cheerful self at all.

Handing over his pipe he asked “what can be done with this?”
I gave it a quick once over – it didn’t look good, sadly in need of some TLC.
No problem” I said, “our pipe repairer can give it a good ream and clean and yes, we can fix the little hole in the bottom of the bowl.
This cheered him up no end, and he promptly selected another 1616 to join his collection of large pipes.

But I could see that he had something still on his mind.
What else can we do for you?
“I want another pipe, something completely different, a smallish relatively inexpensive pipe that I can carry around with me for a short, quick smoke when I have a break in my day.”
He left with his Repair slip, his Lorenzo Mini Briar, and his Savinelli 1616 – feeling much better than when he came in.

Coming from him the request had come as a bit of a surprise – but then why not; and this made me think: when did I last write an article on the appropriate pipe for a “short smoke”?
April 17, 2002 was the date, and “Compact Pipes” was the heading of the article – a re-visit is definitely overdue!
Basically, you need a properly designed small pipe if you want to enjoy a 10 minute smoke.
It just doesn’t do to fill your normal 1-2 hour pipe halfway or less.
It will be difficult to light all that way down in the bowl; and when you do get it lit up, the large surface area over the small depth of tobacco will probably cause the tobacco to burn out before you’ve even had time to enjoy it.                          
The “10-minute” pipe is usually short and sturdy, and can be pre-packed and fitted into the smallest pocket or pouch.                                                
Look at the Savinelli Roley – just asking to be folded neatly into your pocket.
And Lorenzo offers a good range – Dinky, Mini, Club – at really good prices.
What about the distinctive, handmodelled “Cadry”?
These models with thicker-walled bowls will also handle an outdoor smoke very comfortably.
The less chunky Lorenzo “Baby” and Savinelli “Mini Churchwarden” or “Bent Bob” are more suited to indoor smoking. Traditionally the lighter, elegant models were favoured by lady pipe smokers – but “times are a-changing” and these pipes have a place in most pipe collections.
Because the smoking period is short, there is normally no time for excessive moisture to develop and accumulate in the shank – so, no “filter” is necessary.

Well, you’ve guessed it – now that we’ve whet your appetite, we’d better “make you an offer you can’t refuse”.  Here it is:

For the period August 5 to 18, 2010
25% discount off any of the "10-minute" pipes available from Wesley’s
Normal prices from R145.00

Add one to your collection -
you’ll be able to fit a brief period of enjoyment into your busy day.

Colin Wesley
No.240 July 29 – August 11, 2010

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No 241 - August 12, 2010
“Not a Problem!” We offer Solutions

It’s Saturday again, and I’m in my shop. A youngish lady is looking for a cigar ashtray – “My husband has just started smoking cigars, and he says that the ashtrays we have are no good”.
“Good idea – let me show you some options then you can decide, because you know where you want to put it.” 

I tell her that the important point is that the ashtray must be big enough to catch all the ash, and it must have a proper channel to rest the cigar on during the smoke; this will prevent the cigar from tipping into the ashtray (which may cause it to burn unevenly) or worse still, falling onto the tablecloth or carpet. It will also allow the finished cigar to go out by itself, without releasing any unpleasant smell. (A good cigar should never be stubbed out.)
I know in fact that, to be safe, she may need more than one ashtray.

The questions and options:                           
“Do you have an indoor smoking area, or does your husband prefer to smoke outside?”
For indoors, there are these beautiful crystal models, with one or two channels; or the ceramic ashtrays branded with Montecristo or Cohiba.
For outdoor smoking, where an accidental fall can happen, you may prefer a cherrywood ashtray with stainless steel bowl and channel, or the classic brushed chrome (like the one that the late Theo Rudman used to carry with him - in a velvet pouch).
“Talking of carrying with him: Winston Churchill never travelled without a cigar ashtray – packed away in a special wooden box.”
Today there are attractive “fold-over” or “swivel-lid” box ashtrays which are great for travelling - since many resorts, and even hotels or restaurants with smoking sections, don’t provide suitable cigar ashtrays.
One of the “box ashtrays” is even a set which includes a separate cigar cutter and a cigar punch – that’s covering all bases!

Actually these “close-up” ashtrays look really good in the home – closed they make an attractive, ornamental box. And closed up after use, any remaining ash is discreetly hidden until cleaned away!

She opted for the 2-channel crystal ashtray, saying that she would save the fold-up model to be a surprise for their next bush-camp getaway.

After she had left with her gift-wrapped parcel I thought, as I often do, that this is what I like about the business – we try to offer solutions for people’s problems (gift or personal purchase), especially for those who enjoy the “Gentle Art of Smoking” as Alfred Dunhill so nicely put it.
He was referring to pipesmoking – I think that the term applies equally to cigars.

And Wesley’s shops are not limited to gift solutions for smokers only – we specialise in useful, maybe unusual, gifts for everyone. Check your nearest Wesley’s – the range of gifts is individual to each shop.

But back to the cigar ashtrays, because our next offer is an encouraging saving on these useful items:

From 19 August to 1 September 2010 you will receive
25% off the retail price of any Cigar Ashtray
Normal prices range from R260.00

If you’re ever “at a loss” for a gift – try us.

Colin Wesley

No.241 August 12-25, 2010

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No 242 - August 26, 2010
Back To Nature

An article in the July 30, 2010 issue of the Financial Mail made very interesting reading for me- it concerns the proposal of the World Health Organisation to ban the use of “foreign ingredients” (particularly flavourings) in the manufacture of cigarettes.

To put it simply, the claim is that it is these “ingredients” that cause many problems – not least the fact that they attract and encourage impulsive smoking.

So what about products made from 100% pure tobaccos: premium cigars, the occasional natural Turkish or Virginia cigarettes, and pipe tobaccos.            
A pipe certainly cannot be smoked impulsively; what with the whole routine of selecting a pipe from your collection, filling it with your favourite blend and lighting up – without thinking about what you’re doing? No way!

And what about your favourite blend?
My own experience through many years behind the counter is that the more natural tobacco in the blend, the more satisfying it will be for the consumer. By law, the original “English” blends contained no “foreign ingredients”. For various reasons many of these blends no longer exist, but several of the exotic ingredients such as Latakia or Perique, and the myriad of Virginias matured to different degrees form the basis for to-day’s premium pipe blends – but now with the inclusion of a little “Cavendish” to enhance the aroma.
Coincidentally, this is exactly what I have experienced over the last year (or two) chatting with the Wesley’s tobacco customers.
Tastes are changing.                           
Many pipesmokers are moving away from the relatively bland, aromatic blends and asking for more satisfying tobaccos.
Our article in June last year highlights the efficacy of natural matured Virginias and other full-flavoured tobaccos in increasing the satisfaction from your pipe tobacco and combating the problem of “Tongue Burn”.
We suggest for example: “mix some No 15 or No.58 in with your No.43”, or “try adding one of the other more natural blends to your current tobacco”.
This will do, but experience has shown that “mixing” tobaccos just before smoking doesn’t necessarily give consistency in flavour. The tobaccos should rather be combined early in the preparation and allowed to integrate for some time before smoking.

This is exactly what we have done with our new Houseblend “No.46 - Full Gold”. Starting from scratch we have combined one of our most popular imported aromatic Burley tobaccos with some richer matured Virginia tobaccos prepared in the English style.
Try it – maybe after a meal – we’d love to hear from you.

The law says that I can’t invite you to try No.46 with my compliments, but my birthday falls in this period, so I’m offering all of our pipesmokers a special price on CG Pipe Cleaner Spray

CG Pipe Cleaner Spray only R30.00 between September 2 and September 15, 2010.
That’s more than 25% off!

You could also visit any Wesley’s to buy a 7g pack of the new addition to our Houseblend range.
It will be there soon.

Colin Wesley
No.242 August 26 – September 8, 2010

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No 243 - September 9, 2010
You’re sure to require one sooner or later…..

I have always sold Walking Sticks in my shop.
They are good practical items, serving a need for people.     

This, I think, fits in nicely with the general atmosphere we like to create in a Wesley’s shop.
We are there to help in the best way we can, with whatever product we sell.

My first experience of shopkeeping was in my Father’s newsagent/tobacconist. It had quite an English tone to it – maybe because of the “English Mail” which arrived every Tuesday on the Mail Boat. (This was before the days of airfreight.) The Mail always included magazines such as The Tatler, Town & Country, Country Life. These showed walking sticks on many pages. Possibly this developed my interest, and I’ve really enjoyed seeing how the designs have developed over the years.

Our first imports were of knob sticks and crook handle sticks in polished chestnut or ash. The ash had the bark left on giving it a rustic look.                   
The knobs were for “posh”; the crooks were for practical use – and they could hang on an arm, freeing both hands.
In the early 80’s, with our young family, we visited the workshop of our chestnut crook supplier in the Surrey (UK) countryside. It was fascinating to see the shoots from the constantly re-cultivated and trimmed chestnut trees being steamed and then turned by hand.
Back in the shop, the height of the stick was easily corrected by trimming the wooden sticks to suit. We kept a small saw on hand for the purpose.
But both knob and crook handles had the disadvantage of pressure being concentrated in the centre of the palm (not good for arthritic hands), and the hand could too easily slip over the arch of the crook.

Then came the crutch handles – which spread the pressure over the whole palm.    
What a relief for sore hands!
However they couldn’t hang on the arm, and were forever dropping out of your grasp or slipping off their resting place and having to be retrieved from the floor.

A crutch handle with a hook was designed, reputedly by a Lord Derby of England, and the problem was solved. An elderly aunt of my wife was delighted – the “Derby Crutch” handle was comfortable and could hang on her arm, freeing both hands for cooking, or on the back of her chair when she finally got to sit down.
At about the same time a slightly different “Melbourne Crutch” handle appeared on the scene – I’ve no idea who designed it - and it was equally well received. It had a slightly longer gripping area, especially suitable for people with larger hands.         

Another problem was what to do with your stick when travelling, on busses, cars and trains when we started, and then especially when air travel became more common. Eventually a neat, reliable fold-up stick was offered, which could be concertined very simply (and extended with a flick of the wrist – carefully).
The problem of correct height still had to be addressed, but it wasn’t long before a system for an adjustable metal stick became available – and the system also worked on the fold-up sticks.
All that was left to do was to embellish the fold-up sticks to create fashion accessories for elegant ladies – while still retaining their prime function of being reliable walking aids. 
After all, “practical” should not exclude “beautiful”.          
And at the same time a neat strap was designed, which could be attached to any stick for extra security.

Many people become avid collectors of walking sticks, and are correctly known as ambulists. Famous ambulists have included George VI, Queen Victoria, President Washington, Napoleon, Peter the Great and King Tutankhamun. Another keen ambulist, Louis XIV of France, forbade all his subjects bar the aristocracy to use walking sticks because he regarded them as a symbol of power. (Thanks, Classic Canes.)
I remember a young friend with a Fine Arts degree whose first job for Sotheby’s, New York, was to catalogue and value for Katherine Hepburn’s Estate her extensive walking stick collection. Not an easy exercise. What value does the hand that held it add to a walking stick?

I’m a practical person, and I value the walking stick for the help it can give as a walking aid to a person in need; I’m grateful for the seatstick when watching grandchildren’s sport;  I’m keen on the longer sticks, the hiking sticks and thumbstick, for walking in the bush or Berg; and I can appreciate the practical Shepherd’s crook.    
Actually, way back, I sold my first Shepherd’s crook to a lady who taught young children to swim – it was ideal for them to hang onto and be guided through the water. And, would you believe it, several have gone to rural communities to be used at weddings and for other religious ceremonies.
I think that a couple have been used for the purpose their name implies.
I’ve made it my business too, to make sure that we stock affordable sticks for short term use, or for a bit of a safeguard when walking the dogs.

Maybe you fall into the “person in need” category and would be happy to have a walking aid that is elegant and practical; or maybe you’re looking for a gift for an elderly friend or relative who “wouldn’t be seen dead” with a “clumsy crook stick”; possibly you just need a stick to swing when out for a walk; – or whatever!
Look at our selection and bear it in mind – you’re sure to require a walking stick sooner or later.

Sooner may be better – because for the next special we’re offering 25% off the entire Wesley’s range, even those sticks which (thanks to the stronger Rand) have already been reduced.

From 16 - 29 September, 2010
Buy any Wesley’s walking stick for 25% less than the normal price
Normal prices range from only R125.00

A final “tip” – make sure the ferrule is hard-wearing and non-slip.

Colin Wesley
No.243 September 9 - 22, 2010

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